Glen Spey distillery
Glen Spey is perhaps the most anonymous Scottish whiskey distillery in Rothes in the heart of the Speyside whiskey region. Its name is derived from the Gaelic word for valley and its immediate vicinity of the river Spey. Glen Spey means the Valley of the Spey.
Since there have been few bottlings under the distillery’s name, the name Glen Spey is not as well known as the other distilleries in Rothes Glen Grant, Speyburn, Glenrothes and (now lost) Caperdonich. The 12-year-old single malt by Glen Spey, which was published in the Flora and Fauna series, is appreciated by connoisseurs. Otherwise, the whiskey from the distillery is mainly used in the popular blends from J&B.
Glen Spey Whisky Distillery
The Glen Spey Distillery is located in the middle of the village of Rothes, directly on the thoroughfare and can be overlooked for the first time in the village of Rothes. Sadly, Glen Spey has no visitor’s centre and does not offer tours.
The distillery sits below the picturesque ruins of Castle Rothes, once home to the Earls of Rothes who lived there until a devastating fire in 1662.
How does Glen Spey Single Malt taste?Glen Spey is a light, nutty, malty, and somewhat grasiery single malt whisky. The Glen Spey whiskeys are produced almost exclusively for the blend industry, official bottlings as single malt are very rare, Independant bottlings are more readily available.
Despite an inpressive 1.4 million liters annual production Glen Spey the bulk of the production is used in blends or other whisky brands. Those looking to try Glen Spey should start with the 12 year old released as part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna series. Otherwise it is frequently released as a Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) bottling, and can be found from A.D. Rattray, as an excellent Infrequent Flyer from Alistair Walker Whisky Co. or among the releases of James Eadie.
An eight-year official bottling has almost disappeared from the market but can be found from time to time at auction.
How is Glen Spey whisky produced?1.4 million liters of whisky is produced each year using a Lauter Mash tun, 8 steel washbacks and 4 stills.
The malted barley is sourced from one of Diageo’s industrial sites, water is draws from nearby Doonie’s Spring. The grist is soaked in a relatively small stainless steel Lauter mash tun, the water breaking down the starch into sugar using enzymes. The wort is cooled and pumped into the 8 stainless steel washbacks (fermentation vats) of 25,000 liters each and mixed with yeast. This initiates the fermentation, which results in an approx. 8-9% wash or beer.
Distillation is carried out in onion-shaped, constricted stills. There are two wash stills (12,000 l each) and two spirit stills (7,500 l each) all heated by steam. The wash stills are high and use a purifier pipe resulting in reflux (the recondensing and falling back of the distillate for redistilation), similar to that in Strathmill and the neighbor Glen Grant.
The whiskey is matured mainly in ex-bourbon barrels. In 1996, the storage of the on-site dunnage warehouse was replaced by storage in the racking warehouses in the central warehouse of Diageo.
Glen Spey did not actually start as a whiskey distillery but rather as an oat mill that was founded by James Stuart, a grain dealer. The distillery building was added by James Stuart in 1878 and initially operated under the name Mill of Rothes. In 1886 James Stuart acquired the Macallan distillery. Seven years later the distillery was taken over by W. & A. Gilbey becoming the first English-owned whisky distillery. It would not be their last as they later bought Knockando and Strathmill as well. W. & A. Gilbey renamed the distillery Glen Spey. The Londoner based company introduced their first blended Scotch whiskey, the Spey Royal. After the merger with another large wine dealer, Justerini & Brooks (J&B), the portfolio was expanded sustainably.
1920 saw the distillery gutted by fire and have to be largely rebuilt. 1962 saw W&A Gilbey merge with United Wine Traders to form International Distillers and Vintners (IDV). In 1970, the Glen Spey distillery was completely renovated and equipped with modern technology. Among other things, there was an expansion from two to four stills, two wash stills and two spirit stills, each equipped with a purifier. These act like small condensers and lead some of the alcohol that has already evaporated back into the still for redistillation.
IDV was purchased by Watney Mann in 1972, subsequently called Grand Metropolitan. 1997 saw the controvetial merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan which formed Diageo. 2001 saw Glen Spey bottled as a single malt in the Flora & Fauna range
Glen Spey factsheet
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Active||1878 - Present||Malt||Glen Spey||Not Available|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
Glen Spey Timeline:
1878: James Stuart converted his mill into a distillery and named it Mill of Rothes (the name Millhaugh is also mentioned).
1886: James Stuart & Co also bought the Macallan distillery
1887: W&A Gilbey from London buy the distillery and give it the name Glen Spey
1892: The roof of a warehouse collapses
1920: Rebuilt after the distillery was destroyed by a large fire
1960: The task of drum malting
1962: Gilbey merges with United Wine Traders to form IDV
1970: Renovation and extension to 4 stills, onsite maltings cease
1997: Merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan into Diageo
2001: A 12 year old expression is added to the Flora and Fauna lineup
Can I tour Glen Spey?
No, unfortunately Glen Spey distillery is not open to the public for tours